Saturday, January 4, 2014


MY COMMENTS FIRST: This is very, very, very wise legislation!

Seeking to eliminate careerism in the Catholic clergy, Pope Francis has abolished the conferral of the title of ‘monsignor’ on secular or diocesan priests under the age of 65

In a new move aimed at reforming the clergy and eliminating careerism in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has abolished the conferral of the Pontifical Honor of ‘Monsignor’ on secular priests under the age of 65.

Henceforth, the only Pontifical Honor that will be conferred on ‘secular priests’ will be that of ‘Chaplain to His Holiness’ and this will be conferred only on ‘worthy priests’ who are over 65 years of age. (‘Secular priests’ are priests in a diocese, who are not monks or members of religious institutes or orders).

The Vatican’s Secretariat of State has communicated this news to Apostolic Nuncios around the world, and has asked them to inform all bishops in their respective countries of the decision in this regard taken by Pope Francis.

Thus, for example, on January 2, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, wrote to all the bishops in Great Britain to inform them of the Pope’s decision. He confirmed that “the privileges in this regard” that have already been granted by the Roman Pontiff to “physical or juridical persons” remain in force. This would suggest that the papal decree is not retroactive, those who are already monsignors will not lose their title.

The decision does not come as a surprise to those who know Pope Francis. A humble man, he has always been averse to ecclesiastical titles, and when he was bishop and later cardinal in Argentina he always asked people to call him ‘Father’, instead of ‘My Lord’, ‘Your Grace’ or ‘Your Eminence’; he is convinced that the name ‘Father’ best reflects the mission that has been entrusted to a priest, bishop or cardinal. Indeed, during his tenure as archbishop of Buenos Aires (1998-2013), he never asked the Holy See to confer the title of ‘monsignor’ on any priest in the archdiocese.

In taking this decision, Pope Francis is building on the reform in this area of ecclesiastical titles that was introduced by Paul VI in 1968, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Before Paul VI’s reform there were 14 grades of ‘monsignor’, he reduced them to the three ranks that exist today: Apostolic Protonotary, Honorary Prelate of His Holiness, Chaplain of His Holiness. The original titles dated back to the pontificate of Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644).

These three honors are granted by the Pope, usually on the proposal of the local bishop, to Catholic priests who have rendered particularly valuable service to the Church. The priests are given these Pontifical Honors may be addressed as ‘Monsignor’ and has certain privileges, such as those regarding ecclesiastical dress and vestments.

Many bishops have tended to use the honor as a way of rewarding priests who are particularly loyal to them, or to promote priests who have showed particular initiative, but not infrequently priests in their dioceses have read it in a different light. Just before Christmas, a senior Vatican prelate told me that Pope Francis had recently refused the request of one bishop who had asked him to confer the title of ‘Monsignor’ on no less than 12 priests in his diocese. Another source told me that in some countries the Pontifical Honor is conferred in a ceremony that, sometimes, is far from the style of Church that Francis desires.

The Pope’s decision does not make any changes regarding the conferral of Pontifical Honors for Religious and Lay people, the Vatican Secretariat of State stated in its communication to the nuncios. It said the same conditions apply as previously for such honors, as does the mode for requesting them.


Rood Screen said...

Just do away with it. It's a silly Renaissance custom that has nothing to do with the Gospel. That said, I do think there is value in bishops and the pope encouraging priests who get discouraged in their pastoral labors. But a simple phone call will suffice; no need for the poor priest to have to buy purple socks!

Anonymous said...

Come on FrJBS what was so wrong with the Renaissance? It was a great period of reform,the greatest of saints came from it, art flourished in the church. Something tells me you wouldn't have a problem going back to Apostolic times though or the the 1970's. And I bet you will have no tolerance for anyone who disagrees with you. That's just an educated guess, but I bet I'm right. And I bet you aren't going to give up your vacations, central AC, your cable, your dinners out to fancy eateries or your car? To cavalierly say that a beautiful tradition should be thrown into the garbage heap is in my opinion the height of clericalism. I think for the present the title should be given to senior priests because the priesthood is infested with clericalism. Not smells and bells but arrogance. I say priest ought to be made to get a job like Protestant ministers do and earn their own keep. How about that one Father? After all you probably have the laity giving out communion, visiting the sick, teaching CCDS, doing wedding rehearsals. Are you really needed that much, just for Mass, Nobody goes to confession anymore so you must have a lot of free time. So I say put down the Pringles can, turn off the Golden Girls and get a everybody else.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Somehow you derailed in your comments that devoled into insults. Priest work and work pretty darn hard and yes, there are lazy clerical priests, but not all. Not all of us eat pringles, some of us go to discount stores to buy no-named chips!

Rood Screen said...

If I couldn't get a job with a railroad, I think I'd do well in landscaping. My brother's an electrician, but I think plumbing would suit me better if I had to choose a craft. I'm also interested in locksmithing.

Anonymous said...

I'm not insulting priests. You priests unknowingly have made yourselves irrelevantly. You do away with this, do away with that. The Catholic Church has always helped the poor and the forgotten, it didn't start with Francis. But the Church has always been a church of the senses. The liturgy not only use to nourish the soul but it engaged all the senses : beautiful churches to pray in, great singing to hear. Incredible vestments, insence, reverence. Outward Catholic identifiers all thrown away into the garbage like chapel veils, genuflections, meatless Fridays, processions etc. And what replaced all this? Nothing. Discarding centuries of traditions is foolish. News flash, the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Orthodox aren't going to give up any of their traditions. Why doesn't Francis tell the Orthodox and Eastern bishops to stop wearing their crowns? After all it's not in the Gospel. See how that one goes over.

Anonymous 2 said...

Anonymous (or, as I suspect, Anonymous 1):

“Any comment that is vitriolic and disrespectful of the laity in general, and Pope Francis, bishops and priests in particular will no longer be tolerated and will not be posted!. . . Post an intelligent and civil comment.”

As best I can tell, the only measure you meet in many of your comments is evident intelligence. And you were insulting priests. Unfortunately, the lack of respect distracts from the evident intelligence.

I am not trying to pick a fight with you but I have to agree with Father McDonald – most priests work very hard; and it is extremely important work at that, even if the world does not always or indeed usually see this. Priests are certainly not irrelevant.

So, please, try to have a little more respect for our priests and for our Pope. This is a_Catholic_blog after all.

Pater Ignotus said...

And are the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, "flourishing" inasmuch as they wear crowns, ornate vesture, and have icon-encrusted churches, etc? Are the hoardes flocking to these churches? No, they are not.

So when people bemoan the loss of chapel veils and the like, I remain unconvinced.

It's easy to think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but it is rarely, if ever, true.

Rood Screen said...

It's helping people that takes up most of a typical priest's time. Liturgy takes up only a relatively small part of our time. But the liturgy today does take up more time than in the past, since daily Mass homilies are now common and Sunday homilies are emphasized more strongly.

Genuflections, meatless Fridays and processions remain important parts of Catholic life in the Western Church. There's nothing preventing a Catholic woman from wearing a veil.

Papal monsignors--a purely honorary position in almost all cases--have nothing to do with the liturgy, devotions, penance, the poor or other areas of parochial pastoral care.

Rood Screen said...

Speaking of customs from the past, I do wish powdered wigs would come back into fashion. I'm hoping the piercing and tattoo culture will add such head wear to its artistic repertoire. I think some judiciaries still use them, so there must be suppliers out there.

Anonymous said...

"Are the hoardes flocking to these churches? No, they are not."

The important thing is quality not quantity. Better to have a smaller Church of people who acknowledge their sinfulness yet keep striving to live out the Gospel as it was entrusted to Peter and the apostles. Better that, then a church full of millions who think it's a good thing to promote or tolerate evil under the false guise of compassion. What good is it to have an order of 5,000 nuns who promote/tolerate abortion, gay "marriage"', no longer go to Mass or pray the office and cause discord and false teaching. Better to have an order of 50 sisters who pray, uphold the teachings of the Church which always includes the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy. The pope just stated, referring to priestly vocations, that yes we accept sinners but not the corrupt. Bravo. Quality not quantity.

Henry said...

FrJBS is a seven-days-a-week priest dedicated to both EF and OF and to the restoration of traditional faith, liturgy, who frequently mentions kneeling and genuflection, sin and confession, penance, fasting and Friday abstinence, hell and the last things.

Православный физик said...

As long as no liberal priests are being named Msgr, I'm good with it

Charles G said...

What about the married Anglican Ordinariate ordinaries? They've all been named protonotaries apostolic and are called Monsignor. Will this prelational honor not be available in the future?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think that remains in place for married Anglican bishops who are ordained priest and given administrative authority over local Ordinariates. They will be given the highest form so they can use miter and crozier.

Rood Screen said...

Charles G,
The new norms seem to apply restrictions to recommendations coming from diocesan bishops. The post-Anglican situation surely requires a different approach, at the very least in the interest of charity. An Anglican "bishop" gives up his seat to enter into full communion with the Church, so that by vacating his seat he is doing the opposite of "ladder climbing".

Rood Screen said...

I'm sure that from a distance the practice of naming monsignors seems very attractive to some, perhaps even very spiritual, but the closer one gets to the custom the less attractive it can be. Its reputation among diocesan priests is often that of a preparation for episcopal ordination when the honor is conferred on younger (-65) priests, or of a consolation prize for those more important older (+65) priests passed over for such ordination.

Pater Ignotus said...

And, Anonymous, you would think of yourself, of course, as an example of that "quality" Catholic?

With your disrespect for the Pope, your insulting attacks on priests, your cynicism, your exaggerated self-regard which is self-righteousness, your broadsides against the bishops of the Church - you represent the "quality" Catholic?

Heaven help us.

Anon friend said...

Yes and yes, P.I.!!
Heaven help us, indeed...

John said...

Joseph Johnson said...

Fr. JBS,
I noticed your comment on judicial wigs. They are used in English criminal courts but I believe their use has been discontinued in their civil courts.

If you want to check out a couple of suppliers (just out of curiousity) see the websites for Stanley Ley (they sell the wigs, judge's and barrister's robes and the "tunic" shirts for detachable wing collars--these shirts would also work as clerical shirts with rabat collars). Another such company is Ede and Ravenscroft.

Rood Screen said...

Joseph Johnson,
I admit to joking around with that comment, but I do think all judges and court attorneys/barristers should wear them. For that matter, speakers of legislative chambers should wear them.

If they were good enough for George Washington, then... It's un-American not to wear one!

Anonymous 2 said...

In a continuing spirit of jocularity and based on personal experience, here is one problem with wigs:

Though the barrister’s wig was nifty
It was also rather itchy;
So when he sought to expound the law
Inspiration flew out the door.

John Nolan said...

If this is a legislative change, why is there nothing about it on the Holy See's website? The Pope may have announced his intention not to confer these honours, but that doesn't mean he has abolished them, and his successor may adopt a different policy.